Laura Wetzler / Kabbalah Music

Looks like kabbalah to me Laura Wetzler
Kabbalah Music,
Nervy Girl Records

Box 26, Cummington, MA 01026

This is quite an amazing CD. Jewish singer Laura Wetzler has gathered song relating to Jewish mystical traditions, from all ages, composed some herself, interpreted other, and given us an album that does, indeed, speak deeply to both Jewish music and Jewish spiritual tradition. Opening with her interpretation of a song notated in the 12th century CE, the album sets a lovely meditative tone that earns the album title of "Kabbalah Music", continuing with the marvellous Mizrahi sounds of "Kol Haneshama Meditation, " through to the exquisite setting of the closing "Shalom Aleichem" (one of my personal favorite songs attached to the kabbalists, and to stories about them), set to a very American folkish Jewish melody by Wetzler, she covers so many facets of Jewish music.

Many of these songs are familiar, if in other versions, other tunes. The Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach setting of "Gesher Tzar" (Narrow Bridge) may be the more familiar setting of words attributed to the hasidic master, Nachman of Brazlav: "The world in which we live can be a narrow bridge" is well known, for instance. Here, it is sung to a different, also folky, perhaps too-breathy, very American-Jewish Renewal melody. On the other hand, Wetzler's version of "Im Ninalu" is derived from that of '50s Israeli singer Shoshana Damari (not the more familiar Ofra Haza dance tune). This older arrangement is not lacking in strength, depth, or authenticity. Even better, Wetzler's "L'cha Dodi" is a wonderful, simple, near-perfect renewal of a familiar melody, and her rendition of "Shechinah Blessing," adapted from a Debbie Friedman tune, is simply beautiful.

The breathiness of "Gesher Tzar" also holds me slightly apart from "Bar Yohai," a traditional Sephardic melody performed with excellent accompaniment and exquisitely lovely singing. The latter track, however, ends with gorgeous, full-out passion, the opposite of the beginning.

This is not just music to meditate by, but also strong Jewish women's music. Wetzler's voice is amazing and beautiful, from quiet to passionate to chant, she manages to convey strength throughout. This is wonderful music with which to consider the kabbalah, or from which to derive the sense of wonder at grace and creation that underlies the kabbalah.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 2/26/03

Personnel this recording:
Laura Wetzler: vocals, guitar
Alicia Svigals: violin
Lorin Sklamberg: accordion
Joav Jonadabu Keki: vocals
Gershom Sizomu: vocals, guitars
Amir Chehade: dumbeq, rik, tar drum
Michael Hess: kanun, ney flute
Gideon Freudmann: cello
Robin Burdulis: multi-percussion
Laura Liben: tamboura, bass recorder
Barry Kornhauser: bass, acoustic guitars
Avram Pengas: bass
Nikki Parrott: bass
Eve Sicular: set drums


  1. Wa-eda Ma (Ovadia Ha-Ger; arr. Laura Wetzler, Laura Liben) 3:32
  2. Kol Haneshama Meditation ("El Eliahua" words: Abraham ibn Ezra, music: Sephardi trad.; arr Wetzler / "Achot Ketanah" Abraham Hazzan Gerondi; arr. Wetzler / "Kol Haneshama" words: Psalm 150, music: Wetzler / "Kedusha" words: Isaiah 6:3, music: Wetzler) 5:36
  3. Narrow Bridge (Heb: Nachman of Bratzlov, Eng: Wetzler, music: Wetzler) 6:00
  4. Im Ninalu (words: Shalom Shabbazi, music: Yemenite trad., arr: Wetzler) 1:49
  5. Bar Yochai ("Hymn to Bar Yochai" words: Simeon Labi, music: Sephardi trad., arr. Wetzler / "Va'amartem Ko Kechai words: Chacham Yosef Chaim, music: Sephardi trad., arr. Wetzler) 5:49
  6. Respóndemos (words: Ladino--author unknown; music: Spanish Sephardi trad., arr. Wetzler) 1:50
  7. Klezmer Hechalot (words: author unknown, adapted and arr., Wetzler) 3:06
  8. Jacob Wakes Up (words: Wetzler, based on Genesis 28; music: Wetzler) 4:05
  9. L'cha Dodi (words: Salomon Alkabetz, music: J. J. Keki) 4:24
  10. Shechina Blessing (words adapted from "B'ruchot Habaot" by Debbie Friedman; music: Wetzler) 2:28
  11. Yom Zeh L'Yisrael (words: Isaac Luria, "ha-Ari"; music: Spanish Sephardi trad.; arr. Wetzler) 2:44
  12. Dudele (Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev) 3:09
  13. Tkhine of Sarah bas Toivim (Yiddish: Sarah bas Toivim, Eng. trans. Chava Weissler; music: Wetzler) 2:52
  14. Ya Ribon Olam (words: Israel Najara; music: Sephardi trad.; arr: Wetzler) 4:57
  15. Shalom Alechem (words: author unknown, eng. trans.: Rabbi Burt Jacobson; music: Wetzler) 3:48

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